The Man Booker International Prize is an offshoot of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, aka the Booker Prize, known after its original sponsors Booker McConnell.
Booker McConnell was basically a food distribution company which ran a chain of cash-and-carry warehouses, although it did have an ofshoot that owned certain literary rights, most famously the copyrights for the work of Agatha Christie, and was therefore quite happy to sponsor a literary prize that promoted the Booker brand name across the United Kingdom. However in the year 2000 Booker was acquired by Iceland, a frozen food retail chain, (by which time it had sold off the literary rights business) and the new owners announced that it "saw "no commercial link" between its business and the literary award and announced its intention to discontinue sponsorship.
Enter the Man Group a "leading global provider of alternative investment products and solutions" who agreed to take over as sponsors, since which time the Booker Prize has been rebranded as the Man Booker Prize. The Man Group was in the business of selling a range of exotic financial products (such as hedge funds) and was more international in its outlook, which is to say it did a lot of business in the United States, and so wanted to get some publicity value for its sponsorship money in the US market. At one time it was rumoured that it wanted to widen the eligibility of the Man Booker Prize to include (oh horror of horrors) American writers.
The solution was therefore an entitely new literary prize, the Man Booker International Prize which is open to writers of any nationality whatsover. Worth £60,000 to the winner, this prize is awarded once every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In contrast to the 'ordinary' Man Booker Prize it is awarded in respect of an author's entire body of work as opposed to a specifc novel; no nominations are accepted and it is entirely up to the panel of judges to make up their minds about who should be considered for the prize.
According to John Carey, who chaired the first panel of judges, the intention was to "celebrate English-language fiction as a major cultural force in the modern world", making it a sort of Nobel Prize for Literature but restricted to the English speaking world.
Something went terribly wrong in 2005 as the inaugrual winner was announced as Ismail Kadaré. No doubt Ismail Kadaré is a very fine writer, but he is Albanian, and Albania is not a major market for the sale of hedge funds, or any other kind of alternative investment product. Everyone expects this mistake to be rectified in 2007, as although the announced shortlist does include a Nigerian Chinua Achebe, an Israeli Amos Oz, a Frenchman Michel Tournier and a Dutchman Harry Mulisch, most of the names are reliably well-known literary figures from the English speaking world. There are a couple of Canadians, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, plus Michael Ondaatje, who is sort of Canadian-Sri Lankan, representatives from Australia, in Peter Carey and Ireland, John Banville, a more or less British contingent in Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, and two bona fide Americans in Don DeLillo and Philip Roth together with Carlos Fuentes who is really Mexican but lives in the United States, and is therefore probably counted as an American by the Americans.
The smart money is on Philip Roth.